When damage is done through party wall building activities, the Party Wall Act can sometimes not cover the issue. Sara Burr, Chair of The Pyramus and Thisbe Club explains.

Surveyors only need to get involved in a disagreement by agreeing the extent of damage and remedial repairs and who is going to pay for what, if owners cannot agree it between them. Adjoining owners don’t have to agree to have the building owner’s contractor have put right the damage – they can agree compensation in lieu of making good. Ultimately, whilst it is the contractor that has caused the damage, it is ultimately the building owner or insurers that have to pick up the bill. Unless a retention is held and the contractor can be brought to task.

Damage as a result of building work next door is not always covered under the Act, much to the dismay of adjoining owners.

Vibration, roof leaks causing damp, removal of plaster, debris falling off a scaffold to name but a few can cause damage but may not be the result of notifiable works. If it’s not, then the building owner has no obligation to put the damage right and the adjoining owner is then looking at an insurance claim. Unfortunately in many situations the adjoining owner doesn’t want to have to claim on their insurance because the building owner’s contractor has been careless. Owners need to remember that when the contractor has left, life resumes with them being neighbours.

Cutting up a concrete slab using a cango can be fine, as long as it’s not connected to the party wall. Diamond cutting the connection first might increase the cost but it significantly reduces the likelihood of damage. The work itself will be notifiable if it is connected to the party wall and so there is no right under the Act to cause damage. If it’s not connected and no work is notifiable under the Act then the adjoining owners would have to claim on their insurance and then insurance companies will battle it out.

Plaster removal

This depends on the type of plaster and how it is intended to be removed. Some old plaster can be brittle, very thick, and contain horse hair. Under normal circumstances that wouldn’t be a problem to remove and normally wouldn’t be notifiable, although there are conflicting court cases on that. Any damage would depend on the tools the contractor is going to use and the likelihood that they could cause damage.

Dormer constructions

The notifiable works relating to these are normally cutting into the party wall for padstones to support steel beams and cutting in for flashings with the front slope staying intact. So what happens if the contractor strips the roof, leaving the felt and battens so the party wall isn’t exposed? It isn’t notifiable, but he causes damage when the gutter is off and water ingress affects the adjoining owner’s property and a damp problem arises. Or the contractor puts up scaffolding to form the dormer at that rear and debris falls off and damages the adjoining owner’s roof. Neither were caused by notifiable works so if the building owner decides he is not going to put right the damage then it’s a common law claim for damages via insurers. ■


Sara Burr BSc (hons) FRICS

Chair of London Committee and Vice-Chair of National Committee

The Pyramus and Thisbe Club

Tel: 028 4063 2082




  1. The Party Wall Act is one of the most iniquitous pieces of legislation ever dreamt up so far as the poor innocent adjoining owner is concerned. It simply forces him to jump through pointless hoops without even providing any form of compensation for all the damage to his property or the distress and nuisance to him and his family.
    I live in a link-detached house – basically a detached house but with a wooden roof forming an outhouse slung between the houses at ground-floor level. My developer neighbour has declared my whole wall to which this roof is screwed to be a party wall and intends to use it to support a monstrously large extension for which it was obviously not designed. His surveyors have issued an Award, giving the entirety of one of the walls of my house to this developer to support this structure. They are challenging me to take court action, which as a pensioner on a VERY low income, I most certainly cannot afford.
    The surveyors have refused to check the position of the boundary (but simply accepted his version); it is VERY unlikely to be within such a wall (the builder would never have built my house partially on the neighbouring plot would he?). The massive structure will be supported on half a dozen bricks within my wall. They have also authorised the removal of parts of the wall (which is entirely on my property). The neighbour had also started digging down to and below my foundations, prior to issuing Party Wall Act notices – something which the surveyors have also ignored.
    The Award document was hand delivered to my home the afternoon before the Easter holidays, giving me hardly any time to decide about an appeal. Not only can I not afford a court case but the stress of one would likely kill me (I have heart trouble). What purpose would it serve? Even if I get the support of a judge he will only tell them to start the process again, thereby causing me yet more anguish.
    I am elderly and unwell, mostly as a direct result of this dispute which has been ongoing now for 18+ months (the major work has not yet started).


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